It should be said…
March 23, 2009, 9:32 am
Filed under: Anna | Tags: , , ,

That last week’s issue of the Observer was one of the best so far. All of the articles were interesting, the podcast went off without a hitch, and we even had time to do a “behind the scenes” video. I’m very impressed.

Of course, I should also mention that I committed an amateur’s mistake when putting together my breakfast taco video. I needed music for the background, so I went and found a song by Los Lobos and put it in there. I credited the artist, but when I went back and read the terms of use, it explicitly said DO NOT USE THIS MUSIC EVERRRRR THAT WOULD BE STEALING!!

Which, honestly, was kind of annoying, because if you find an mp3 easily available for download, and you credit the artist and don’t try to pass it off as your own work, shouldn’t that be okay? I’m obviously a big fan of creative commons licensing, and for a simple reason: It makes sense. I have yet to go back and plug in new music, but I obviously had to take down the video until I get a chance to do that.

Copyright law is, as we know, super complicated, and it is the only reason I would want to go to law school: To study and eventually fight for or against it. But that’s a subject for another day.

I’d be interested to hear what my fellow Observers think about Creative Commons, though.

Food for thought, watch Larry Lessig’s talk from TED.

Cross-posted to Blog10 and Escapador.


On Contributions
March 4, 2009, 3:06 pm
Filed under: Anna | Tags: , , ,

This week the American Observer tackled the weighty issue of lobbying in D.C… or rather, lobbying in general, including the new laws and a history of modern advocacy.

Unfortunately, as Russ mentioned earlier this week, several of us were tied up in editing and choosing decent advocate profiles from a giant pile sent to us by Jane Hall’s Advanced Reporting class. Out of the 15 or so that were submitted, we chose to publish four. Kind of sad, huh? Well… I think we could have curbed our problems with the articles if we had laid out the following guidelines:

  • Contributions have to be well-sourced. All of these profiles had a single source, which, had we published them without editing, would have sounded as if the American Observer was advocating them, too. We can’t have that.
  • We need to know EXACTLY what the stories are before we agree to receive contributions. Apparently Professor Hall told her students it was okay to only speak to one person as the source for the piece… had we known that, we would have said no from the beginning and saved everyone a lot of time and work.
  • Art is required. Since the beginning of the semester, we decided to make the Observer more magazine-y and multimedia heavy. That means art. Give us a photo, a graphic, whatever… just give us SOMETHING.

So that’s what I think. As managing editor for the past week, I was very involved in the entire process, so consider it a word from the experienced, and now the wiser.

Cross-posted to American Observer and Escapador.

Time is the enemy
February 28, 2009, 11:58 am
Filed under: Anna | Tags: , ,

I know Russ talked about our issue with deadlines a couple of times last week, but I wanted to weigh in on the issue as, well, sort of a devil’s advocate.

We produce an issue every Wednesday, the middle of the week. After signing up for stories, most of us have one or two classes that afternoon and/or night, usually lasting into the evening. So that afternoon is shot. The next two days are filled with classes and work, which doesn’t allow much time dedicated for stories, at least not in-person interviews, which we would prefer.

That means that most articles are written during the weekend (not business hours, obviously) or on Monday. We have very talented writers in our program, but given that our deadline is usually late Monday night, one day to write a story can be difficult, especially when we demand heavy multimedia.

Since I am the Flash-0bsessed member of our cohort, this can be even more frustrating. Flash takes time. Not even that… creating the wireframes to base the Flash on takes time. Design takes more time. Execution… even more. I posted last week on my blog that I was creating a timeline for Black History Month, but unfortunately my Monday and Tuesday were completely filled with work, and even though the reporter got the information to my by Tuesday afternoon, having everything ready to go by publish time on Wednesday was next to impossible. Coffey did me a favor by pulling the plug on that one, otherwise I would have been even more stressed out and tired come production time.

I suppose my point of this entry is to remind people that the American Observer is not the only thing we do, and that perhaps our problem isn’t meeting deadlines, but rather communicating to editors when we have problems. I like that we have started teaming up to cover stories so that the responsibility doesn’t just fall on one set of shoulders. I think that’s an easy first-step to our problem.

So take heart, Observers and Observer fans. This is a learning process.

Cross posted to Escapador and American Observer.